The title of today’s blog is the actual headline from an article in the Detroit Free Press. Honestly, I’m confused. So you didn’t shoot a bunch of kids with airsoft guns, what, do you want a cookie or something? I understand that it was a “charged” situation, and the police were responding to a “man with a gun” call; however I’ve never been big on congratulating people for doing their job. However, this article does continue to illuminate a fascinating new aspect of hoplophobia, specifically the fear of toy guns. Airsoft Hysteria might be another good phrase for it.
I’ve seen several articles in the news from our neighbors to the north about SWAT teams being called because kids were playing in their front yard with airsoft guns. These are paralleled by articles from across the pond where houses have been raided due to a Lara Croft cutout being seen in a house. I’m honestly tremendously interested in such stories – they’re all usually the same as well. It starts with some kids playing, the kids are observed by an adult who calls the Five-Oh all in a tizzy, and the cops show up en masse, the kids smartly put their toys down, and the whole mess concludes with an article in the local rag about the dangers of toy guns.
This particular article is studded with gems, however the last paragraph in particular stands out to me.
“If they’re playing on their own property, we can’t regulate that,” Carroll said. “But, in the public, just being in a situation where we don’t know where the fantasy begins and ends … parents don’t know the danger they’re (sic) kids are putting themselves in.
“We just know there are people out there with guns so realistic it’s downright scary.”
There are two parts of that quote that I don’t like. The first is the “we can’t regulate” if they’re playing on their own property. From the tone of the article, the Chief sounds almost disappointed that they can’t tell citizens what to do on their own property. The second part is the last line, about how “it’s scary” how realistic some of the toy guns have become. I understand that no cop wants to shoot an innocent person, I’m just questioning his choice of words.
I remember when I was growing up, an LAPD officer shot a kid who turned out to have a toy gun. This sparked the California law that mandates the orange tip on toy guns. Additionally, with my father being a deputy sheriff, we were very strongly lecture to never, ever, point toy guns at police officers, or even other people. If we were playing with toy guns, we had to be responsible with them.
That’s the point of all this – behind the Airsoft Hysteria is the message that these items are dangerous, because a cop might accidentally shoot a kid. That’s a problem, because it removes the burden of responsibility from the parents and the police and places it on an inanimate object. The “for the children” saw is very familiar to 2nd Amendment activists, as it’s often used as an excuse to ban real firearms. Of course, it doesn’t address the real issue with gun bans; nor does it address the issue of toy guns.
I can tell you how to solve the toy gun “problem”, and eliminate all the perceived dangers of these “scary looking” toys. The process involves both the police, and parents. Parents need to teach their children to be responsible with their toys – the kids in this article are actually a good example. When confronted by police, they immediately dropped their airsoft guns, and didn’t do anything stupid that might involve catching a bullet. If you’re going to play with airsoft, you have to be responsible. That’s step one. Step two involves the police. Why not have cops have an open meeting with teenagers – seriously. Have them all come to the YMCA or something, give them donuts, and talk about what to do if you’re playing with a toy gun and confronted by a police officer. No scare tactics, no “you shouldn’t ever play with toy guns.” Offer them honest education on the dangers of the situation. A lot of teenagers honestly have no idea how charged up a “man with a gun call” can be – why not educate them?